State officials are providing $100,000 to haul nearly a third of the cows that died in a recent blizzard to an Oregon landfill.
Gov. Jay Inslee’s office said that the removal of the dead animals was expected to be completed Wednesday, according to a news release.
The response was formulated by a team including representatives of state and local emergency management and health departments, the Washington State Dairy Federation, South Yakima Conservation District and the state departments of Agriculture and Ecology.
“It is encouraging how quickly this team of farmers, regulators and the local community were able to assess the situation and reach solutions that met everyone’s needs,” Inslee said in the release. “Their rapid response and cooperative spirit help avert further impacts of this devastating situation.”
A blizzard swept through the Yakima Valley on Feb. 9, with subfreezing temperatures and winds gusting as high as 80 mph in places. Dairy industry representatives said 1,830 dairy cows were killed outright at about 14 area dairy farms.
Jay Gordon, policy director for the dairy federation, said other animals were so injured by the cold weather that they were being shipped to slaughterhouses.
“Farmers have never seen anything like this (in their memory),” Gordon said. “They said their dads hadn’t seen anything like this.”
Part of the problem, Gordon said, was that dairy farms had shelters laid out based on prevailing northeast winds, but the Feb. 9 storm came around from the southeast instead, putting the cattle in the storm’s path with no shelter.
Some of the cows were trampled to death as they huddled together for warmth, despite farmers’ efforts to get them to move to improvised shelters, Gordon said.
Farmers worked through the storm to save as many animals as they could, as well as keep roads open for workers to get in and milk trucks to leave, dairy industry representatives said.
After the storm passed, it became imperative to dispose of the dead animals before the weather warmed up.
Many farmers opted to have rendering plants dispose of the carcasses, while others composted the animals on site. A few took theirs to local landfills, Gordon said.
The Farm Services Agency estimates the losses to the dairy industry at $4 million, the Associated Press reported.
Tara Lee, Inslee’s spokeswoman, said the state Department of Commerce is recommending affected farmers reach out to local economic development agencies to find out about possible support options. She said the USDA’s Farm Services Agency may have some financial assistance available.